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The rhetoric’s of Democracy-in-transit

by Tsepo Ndhlovu


When I was just a boy,
Mama told me —Democracy and education ride together—
So I went to school
Hoof-hoofing hoping to learn

At first; they taught us Afrikaans as a subject,
And that was in Grade 3 of ‘97
But then they—stopped, said it was the language of the old.
We were the new: 1976 has triumphed.

They taught us what democracy was
—the government of the people by the people for the people—
And that was in Grade 4, when I learned.
And Mama was very proud when I taught her.
She said, —someday I’ll be a teacher,
And I must teach others what I have taught her—.

Then, I was proud and felt encouraged to learn more.
Except that I don’t remember much from—grade 5 to grade 7;
You see: I was mostly frightened to learn to learn
The whip is all I ever thought;
One answer wrong: and you’re—in for a Durban July.

But I remained in school, as Mama had asked.
There, and—then after her death in ’02.
We moved to town—and studied in a black school;
There—were African, Indian and Afrikaner teachers—
Colleagues, I never saw once lunch in unison.

There came Love David,
Followed by the Animal Farm
And then came When Rain Clouds Gather,
At last was Alan Paton Cry the Beloved Country.

No Shakespeare to play,
None of Fugards to engage,
Not Sophocles to immense…
And it was done!

Was I robbed of imaginative literature?
Or, simple thought of, as immune to it.

Many years—later, I learnt
‘That the children of our leaders were learning the old.’
And there—; was George Orwell in full swing:
Dancing and singing I told you so…
Biko’s obsession to define whiteness!
And now, there—; they were the new rhetoric’s transacts.